Vietnam Programs

Vietnam is one of those destinations that captures the imagination and never fails to deliver.  From the cultural highlights of Hanoi, Hue and Hoi An to the natural wonders of Halong Bay, Sapa or the Mekong Delta there is plenty to reward those seeking to discover the new.  The beaches of Hoi An, Nha Trang and Mui Ne provide relaxation and sunshine, whilst the bustle of Ho Chi Minh City with its references to modern iconic periods of history complete what is, to many a true highlight of their collection of countries visited.

full-page-divider

VIETNAM EXPLORED – 13 DAYS 12 NIGHTS

DAY 1: HO CHI MINH ARRIVAL

On arrival in Ho Chi Minh City you will be met &transferred to your hotel.

Officially Saigon renamed Ho Chi Minh City after reunification in 1975, most people here still prefer to use the old name, Saigon. Once referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, Saigon, with its unofficial population around 8-9 million is Vietnam’s largest city and stands in stark contrast to the capital, Hanoi. Perhaps Saigon lacks the same colonial charm of its northern cousin but it still has a certain tropical ambience and general hustle & bustle that makes it a distinctly a modern South East 235200891554_IMG_0485_sAsian city.Ho Chi Minh City is a thoroughly oriental city full of vitality, history and chaos, still fondly referred to as Saigon by the locals. Much of the fun of being in Ho Chi Minh City derives from the simple pleasure of absorbing its flurry of activity –maybe best done from the safety of a roadside café! To close your eyes momentarily is to miss something new be it a cyclo piled high with cargo, or the whole family, to the constant procession of noodle vendors and salesman of every kind.

DAY 2: CITY TOUR + CU CHI TUNNELS FULL DAY

Today you’ll be taken to the city tour that includes visit of the Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, the French Quarter allows you to admire many beautiful French colonial buildings such as Notre Dame Cathedral, the main Post Office and keep walking on Dong Khoi street known as Catinat in French, and the former Hotel de Ville (city hall) and central Ben Thanh market.

In the afternoon you take a tour out to the incredible Cu Chi Tunnels. Begun by the Viet Minh and later expanded by the Viet Cong, Cu Chi’s tunnels were constructed to conduct covert operations and then quickly hide from the enemy. There are reputed to be around 200 kilometers of underground tunnels within the area, they include underground hospitals, kitchens and meeting rooms and in some places they even managed to penetrate the perimeters of nearby YOU military bases. You’ll actually be given the opportunity of crawling through a section of the tunnels while you’re here.

Conical Hats - Hoi-An -VietnamDAY 3: MEKONG DELTA FULL DAY

The Mekong River begins its journey in the high plateau of Eastern Tibet and, after winding its way some 4000+ km’s through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, it reaches Vietnam and divides into 9 channels (the Vietnamese refer to the Mekong Delta as “Cuu Long” – which means 9 dragons) and hundreds of tributaries before emptying into the South China Sea. The Mekong Delta is one of the most fertile regions on earth and home to some 20 million people. The best way to see the Delta is, of course, by boat. This morning you leave Ho Chi Minh and head two hours to the southwest. Along the way there are lush rice paddies and fruit farms emerging alongside the highway. Upon arrival in Ben Tre, you board a boat to enjoy the countryside and river life. The last part of your journey is relaxing while enjoying the view from a small sampan boat as you are paddled slowly along tropical canals. For lunch you’ll be guests at a local home where you’ll be treated to a number of Mekong Delta specialties.

After lunch, a short walk takes you back to the car and your return trip to Saigon.

DAY 04: FLY TO DANANG+ SUNSET DINNER CRUISE

This morning you have a free time at leisure until you’re transferred to the airport to catch the flight to Danang.

Upon arrival in Danang, transfer to Hoi An that takes a 40-minute to Hoi An town.

The ancient and historic town of Hoi An was for three centuries one of the most important ports in Central Vietnam, visited by sailing ships from all over the world seeking trade in silk, ceramics and spices. In the late 19th Century, the Thu Bon River, linking the port to the open sea, began to sit up and became un-navigable for large vessels. Trade moved up the coast to Tourane, now modern day Danang, and Hoi An went back to being a sleepy little fishing and rice farming community. Today however, Hoi An’s fortunes are once again riding on the crest of the wave as Vietnam’s number one tourist destination. This is largely due to the fact that UNESCO has listed the Old Town as a World Heritage Site with its quaint narrow streets packed with ancient Chinese, Portuguese and Japanese styles of Street Scene - Hoi-An -Vietnamarchitecture that has changed little from its heyday as a major port of trade.

In Hoi An we include a walking tour of the Old Town where you can visit an Ancient House, a Chinese Assembly Hall, the Japanese Covered Bridge and a Museum.

In late afternoon you experience your dinner on the boat cruise. The Captain and crew will greet you as you step onto the boat. Once on your deck, our hostess will escort you to your private table and a complimentary cocktail and snack are served upon boarding, setting the scene for the unforgettable evening ahead. Don’t forget to have your camera in hand to take nice photos as the sun going down behind the mountain and all fishing activities on the river while cruising on Thu Bon River. Dinner provides a unique experience to dine on the water and enjoy a seafood platter including fresh local prawns, fish, squids and crabs complemented perfectly by our excellent wine list available for purchase from your service team together with fresh tropical fruit for your dessert. A great way to start your evening is by watching the boat cast off from our outside observation deck and it is also a fabulous opportunity to make your best wishes by lowering floating candle lantern into the river from the boat. Our elegant dinner cruise lasts a leisurely 2 hours, giving you plenty of time to sip some cocktails and relax over a delightful dinner while listening to music. Upon your return to the Cinnamon Cruises pier, the crew will wish you farewell.

DAY 05: COOKING CLASS HALF DAY

Begin your cooking class session this morning by a visit to Hoi An’s colourful market, and experience the amazing sights, sounds and aromas of this busy market. You will have the opportunity to interact with the local sellers and purchase some of the ingredients to be used in the cooking lesson later. You board the Red Bridge boat for a leisurely cruise (25 minutes) along the Hoi An River to the Red Bridge Cooking School. This is a chance to view local river life, so make sure your camera is handy. On arrival, you explore the cooking school’s herb and vegetable garden, before learning about some of Hoi An’s and Vietnam’s well-known dishes. The cooking lesson runs for about 2 hours – each dish is first demonstrated by the Red Bridge chef’s, before you prepare the same dish ourselves. After the lesson, you sit down and eat exactly what you have cooked.

setting_lg3DAY 06: HOIAN FREE DAY 

Leisure at your free time

In your free time you may relax at some of the town’s numerous cheap cafes, or have some clothes made up. Hoi An has nearly 100 silk shops offering same-day service for tailor made clothes at low prices

DAY 07: HOIAN FREE DAY

Leisure at your free time

In your free time you may relax at some of the town’s numerous cheap cafes, or have some clothes made up. Hoi An has nearly 100 silk shops offering same-day service for tailor made clothes at low prices

 

DAY 08: HOI AN – HUE – HUE CITY TOUR HALF DAY

Today you drive out of the town to visit Marble Mountains named the five mountains as Ngu Hanh Son. He also named each of them according to one of the five Thien Mu Pagodaelements of the universe: Kim Son (metal of gold), Moc Son (wood), Thuy Son (water), Hoa Son (fire), and Tho Son (earth). According to Oriental philosophy, metal, wood, water, fire and earth are five elements that create the universe. Five is a very important number in oriental mentality and life. And so, the five mountains that compose Marble Mountain are filled with mysterious. Continue to Danang and take a scenic three-hour drive to Hue, through a region of Vietnam blessed with magnificent rural and coastal scenery. You drive through Danang, where Highway 1 begins its winding ascent through the Hai Van Pass or ‘Pass of the Ocean Clouds’. On the other side of the pass is the pretty Lang Co Beach before crossing over another two small passes to arrive in Hue around lunchtime.

Hue served as Vietnam’s capital from 1801 to 1945 – during the reign of the Nguyen dynasty emperors – and has a serene and classic character that sets it apart from all other provincial Vietnamese cities. This afternoon, visit the Citadel where you spend a couple of hours exploring Hue’s massive ancient royal walled city and the Forbidden Purple Palace enclosed within. The palace’s splendid ‘Ngo Mon’ gate gives little hint of the destruction that has taken place inside the citadel at the hands of various occupying forces. The bloody ‘Battle of Hue’ during the 1968 Tet offensive all but finished it off but skilled Vietnamese craftsmen, with the help of UNESCO and other non-government organizations, are restoring and rebuilding what remains. Sadly, it can never be returned to its former glory, but it’s still a fascinating insight into Imperial Vietnam.

DAY 09: HUE – PERFUME RIVER CRUISE

This morning you enjoy a leisurely “Dragon Boat” cruise along the timeless Perfume River. Our first stop is the Thien Mu Pagoda – one of the oldest and most significant pagodas in Hue, you continue visiting the Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang (1820-1840), one of the best remaining examples of its kind. Constructed between 1841 and 1843, it’s renowned for its architecture, which fits harmoniously into the surrounding landscape. Like in other tombs of this period, the general elements of the tomb architecture are: outer-walls, triple gate (Tam Quan Gate), Salutation Court, Stele House, temples, lakes, pavilions, gardens and the tomb itself. Lazily cruise back to the town and the rest of the day is free at your leisure

DAY 10: FLY TO HANOI – CITY TOUR HALF DAY

Free at leisure until you’re transferred to the airport to catch the flight to Hanoi

On arrival in Hanoi, you’re transferred to the hotel for check in. You can leave your bags at the hotel and start a city tour, showcasing some of Hanoi’s most interesting attractions. You begin by visiting the One Pillar Pagoda which is near to the Soviet-inspired Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. One Pillar Pagoda was first constructed in 1049 and is one of Hanoi’s oldest structures. If it doesn’t look that old, it’s because the French blew it up in 1954 as a parting gesture and the current building is a replica. Afterwards, we’ll visit the Temple of Literature. Founded in 1070, it was Vietnam’s first institute of learning and the place where candidates for the position of Mandarin were examined.

Finally we’ll visit the Hoa Lo Prison, better known to many as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’. These days the prison serves as a museum and a reminder of the Vietnamese who were incarcerated here by their French masters and, later, American pilots shot down over North Vietnam airspace during the Vietnam War.

In early evening you enjoy the rickshaw ride to the Old Quarter well known as 36 Old Streetsthen you will have the opportunity to experience a traditional Hanoi Water Puppet show at the famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. The performance involves wooden puppets manipulated by bamboo wooden sticks hidden beneath the water which depict stories of Vietnamese folk tales and daily life.

DAY 11: HANOI – HOA LU TEMPLE – TRANG AN GROTTOES 

Today you drive out of town heading down to South East of Hanoi to the old capital Hoa Lu, the site of a 10th-century capital of an ancient Vietnamese Kingdom called Dai Co Viet. This small Kingdom covered an area of only 300 hectares, enclosed by a citadel that shapes the Yen Ngua as the horse cradle, these limestone hills provided good defence for this kingdom against the Chinese. The mountains and sea combined to make Hoa Lu’s picturesque landscape. Hoa Lu lays in a flat valley surrounded by the Trang An lime stone mountains, which form a natural wall protecting the old citadel. The city’s northwest is bordered by the Hoang Long River, the tributaries of which run through the capital, cooling the weather within the city and serving as convenient waterways.

You will visit some of temples and enjoy a scenic view of limestone mountains whilst cruising through some caves. Drive back to Hanoi after having lunch in Hoa Lu.

Halong-Bay-VietnamDAY 12: HA NOI – HA LONG OVERNIGHT CRUISE TRIP 

Halong Bay became firmly entrenched as one of the “must see” sights of Vietnam after the filming of the 1992 French movie, “Indochine” (starring Catherine Deneuve) and later the 1997 James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies” (starring Pierce Brosnan). The images of red sailed junks navigating through the 3000+ limestone karsts (islands) jutting out of the bay are nothing short of spectacular.

It’s approximately a three-hour drive from Hanoi to Halong port where we board our boat and head out into the bay enjoying a seafood lunch (non-seafood also available) on the way. During the cruise we will stop to visit a cave and, in the warmer months, there is a chance to enjoy a swim and maybe do some kayaking (optional and extra cost involved). After we have moored up in the bay for the night our crew will busy themselves preparing a sumptuous dinner whilst, weather permitting, we watch an incredible sunset. Conditions are more communal compared to staying in a hotel, however it is a wonderful experience to be spending a night on the bay. All boats have twin-share cabins with en suite facilities and bedding and towels are provided.

DAY 13: HA LONG – HA NOI

In the morning we cruise back to Halong Port, where we disembark and drive back to Hanoi.

DAY 14: DEPARTURE HA NOI

After breakfast you’re transferred to the airport for departure flight back home.

full-page-divider

Vietnam at a Glance – 9 Days 8 Nights

Day 1: Hanoi

Although it is the modern-day capital of Vietnam, Hanoi still retains the mystery and charm of past centuries. Your first day here is spent exploring this charming city.

First is a visit to the Temple of Literature, Founded in 1070 and dedicated to Confucius, this was also the site of Vietnam’s first university and is one of the best 2579863_252809_163d839254_pserving examples of traditional Vietnamese architecture.

Continuing  to the miniature One Pillar Pagoda dating from the 11th century, this monument was rebuilt after being destroyed by the French in 1954. Walk through the park to Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House, the simple two-room dwelling where Ho Chi Minh lived from 1958 until his final days (1969) and remains preserved in the same condition as during his life.

The narrow lanes and traditional shops houses in the Old Quarter are easily explored by foot. Here you can buy anything and everything: traditional Chinese medicine, silk pyjamas, tombstones and local crafts.

Day 2: Hanoi – Halong

Transfer by vehicle from Hanoi to Halong stopping along the way at the Phat Tich pagoda, built between the 7th and 10th centuries. The pagoda has over one hundred compartments and offers a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere for visitors and pilgrims. Also visit the Do Temple, built during the Le Dynasty and famous for its beautiful architecture.

G0205 Angkor Pl d1_055Day 3: Halong – Hanoi

Board a charming traditional wooden junk and spend the day cruising around the mystical landscape of Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site where over 3,000 limestone rock islands with sheer vertical sides rise out of the emerald sea. The wind, rain and sea have carved out dramatic caves and grottoes in some of the islands, several of which will be explored. A delicious seafood lunch is served on the boat while you admire the scenery.

Transfer back to Hanoi by road.

Day 4: Hanoi – Hue

Fly from Hanoi to Hue.

The 17th century city of Hue once served as the capital of Vietnam and houses ancient temples, imperial buildings and French-style edifices. Venture into the beautiful countryside around Hue to visit the Imperial Tomb of Tu Duc, the longest reigning Vietnamese emperor, who built this elegant tomb during his lifetime, using it as a meditation retreat and for theatre performances. Wander among the gracefully proportioned pavilions, courtyards and lotus ponds.

Explore the Imperial Citadel which was modelled after the Forbidden City of Peking and contains monuments that provide a fascinating glimpse into the court life of the Nguyen Dynasty. Enter via the imposing Ngo Mon Gate and visit: Dien Tho Residence where the Queen mother lived; the magnificently decorated Thai Hoa Palace; the Halls of the Mandarins; and the original Nine Dynastic Urns, among other sites.Hoi An - Vietnam

Day 5: Hue – Danang – Hoi An

In the morning board a local boat and cruise down the Perfume River to the iconic Thien Mu Pagoda, an elegant seven-tiered octagonal tower. Continue cruising into the countryside to the Imperial Tomb of Minh Mang, a majestic complex of courtyards, pavilions and temples in a beautiful natural setting. Travel by road via the dramatic Hai Van Pass and past Lang Co, a lovely stretch of beach curving outwards between a clear blue lagoon and the South China Sea. Visit the Cham museum that houses an incredible collection of Cham art, many dating to the 4th century. Continue on to Hoi An.

Day 6: Hoi An

The exquisitely preserved merchant town of Hoi An was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. It is a picturesque riverside town and was one of South East Asia’s major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Best explored by foot, you can wander through the cobbled streets, past low tile-roofed buildings, the bustling central market and to the small harbour where brightly painted boats are moored. See the Japanese Covered Bridge Pagoda constructed in 1593 by the Japanese community to link the town with the Chinese quarters across the stream. Visit the Sa Hunyh Museum, an old family chapel, a typical Chinese style pagoda or assembly hall and a handicraft workshop.

In the afternoon, board a local boat and cruise down the Thu Bon River past the unspoiled countryside to see the traditional art of pottery and woodcarving.

IMG_8264

Day 7: Hoi An –  Ho Chi Minh City

Travel by road to Danang and take a flight to Ho Chi Minh City: a vibrant metropolis teeming with energy, activity and motion. The emerging modern skyline competes for space with colonial buildings and traditional temples. Outside on the streets, young professionals zip by on motorbikes, chatting on mobile phones while inside the quiet temple courtyards, worshippers pray amidst clouds of incense Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. Never discovered by American forces they were an important Vietcong base during the American War. Stretching over 200km, this incredible underground network, dug by hand out of hard laterite, connected command posts, hospitals, shelter and weapon factories. Today, you can walk through the area and learn about the day-to-day life of the VC, see the cleverly disguised entrances and elaborate booby-traps, and even venture inside the tunnels, some of which have been modified to accommodate tourists.

Day 8: Ho Chi Minh City

From Saigon, drive into the heart of the Mekong delta to Cai Be, and embark on one of the local boats to explore the Cai Be Floating Market, a lively market of fruit and vegetable barges located alongside a picturesque riverside Catholic cathedral. Continue along smaller waterways and canals, stopping at the Mekong River Islands to visit orchards full of tropical fruits and local cottage industries. Enjoy watching how the delta residents make traditional treats such as dried longyans, Transportation - Mekong Deltarice pancakes and puffed rice candies, with the chance to sample the local delicacies. Disembark at Vinh Long and return to Hi Chi Minh City.

Day 9: Ho Chi Minh City

Visit the Reunification Palace, formerly the Independence Palace of the South Vietnamese president. This 60s style building was famously stormed by tanks on April 30, 1975 signifying the fall of South Vietnam. It has been preserved in its original state, and the tanks remain on display near the entrance gates.

Also visit the Emperor of Jade Pagoda, the neo-Romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office. Pass by classic European-style landmarks such as the ornate City Hall, the old Opera House and end up at the central Ben Thanh Market, where you can buy a vast array of goods and handicrafts.